Mandatory Credit: Photo by Tony Gutierrez/AP/Shutterstock (13488843z) Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott looks downfield during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, in Arlington, Texas Lions Cowboys Football, Arlington, United States – 23 Oct 2022
Dak is back!
That might be the best thing you can say about Dak Prescott the day after the Cowboys win over the lowly Lions, 24-6.
The Cowboys welcomed back their franchise quarterback on Sunday, but he did little to ease concerns about the team’s lack of offensive production during his five-week absence.
With Cooper Rush at the helm, the Cowboys did just enough offensively to rattle off wins over the Bengals, Rams, Giants, and Commanders before getting exposed in a loss at Philadelphia.
Good thing Rush had that winning magic, or Sunday’s return performance from Prescott might be more of an issue going into this week’s game against Chicago.
The Bears, who boast the third-best pass defense in the NFL after five weeks, should give Prescott more of a test than the Lions, who harassed the Cowboys QB all day long and dropped a couple of what looked to be easy interceptions.
But for Prescott, there is more to his lackluster play than the thumb injury he suffered in the waning moments of their loss to Tampa Bay in Week 1. Prescott, who had just 134 yards passing against the Bucs when he went down with the hand injury with less than five minutes to play in the game, has seen his numbers slowly dwindling during an extended period of action.
Over his last 13 starts, the first 11 of which came last season, including one in the playoffs, Prescott has thrown for over 300 yards just twice – 375 vs. Las Vegas (an overtime home loss) and 330 vs. Washington (a late-season home win) in 2021.
In the other 11 starts, Prescott averaged just 229.2 yards passing per game, nearly 30 yards below his career average of 257.7 yards per contest over his 87-game career.
If you believe there is a problem like I do, then what is it?
That’s the 40-million dollar question the Cowboys’ brass will surely be asking themselves during the quiet moments at The Star this week.
Well, let’s ask them out loud.
Is it Dak’s accuracy? His completion percentage is at a career-low 64.5-percent. He had multiple throws, including two aimed at Michael Gallup, that were so far behind the receiver that even the best contortionist wouldn’t be able to come up with the catch.
Is it his decision-making? Maybe, he threw into triple coverage twice and was lucky that he wasn’t intercepted on both of those throws, as both balls were in the hands of a Lions’ defender before falling harmlessly to the ground.
Is it his health? He had the dislocated ankle in Week 5 of 2020 that cost him 11 games. When he returned, the changes in throwing pattern and the mobility issues he faced because of the ankle caused a throwing shoulder strain during the preseason and an eventual in-season calf strain, which cost him one game. This season he has already lost five games to the thumb injury.
Is it the poor play of the offensive line? The offensive line has been atrocious when it comes to pass blocking. The O-line, as a unit, has been credited with surrendering 11 sacks.
That doesn’t sound like much but consider that Cooper Rush held the ball for just an average of 2.2 seconds before throwing it, which is tied for second quickest in the NFL this season among quarterbacks with at least two starts behind only Tom Brady (2.1).
There’s not just one glaringly obvious thing you can point to that tells us why Prescott continues to struggle.
That leads to a final question.
How do they fix it?
Whether it’s with offensive formations, play calling, or something else altogether, that’s a question for Mike McCarthy and Kellen Moore to figure out. But the Bears and that third-ranked pass defense will be at AT&T Stadium this coming Sunday afternoon.
The clock is ticking.